AUSTIN (KXAN) — “He doesn’t appear to expect much of himself or his life, and seems a strong candidate at this point for a life of recidivism or… suicidal inclinations,” psychologist David Poole wrote in court records about Raul Meza Jr., according to 1982 Austin American-Statesman archived newspapers.
Poole has since passed away, but KXAN tracked down another person who worked with Meza in a similar capacity — his former therapist Vivian Lewis.
“While meeting Raul, I was in the world of a completely different animal,” Lewis, who retired about a decade ago, said.
Poole’s assessment of Meza was conducted for the courts in 1976 when Meza was just 15 years old, the articles state. Meza was facing charges of aggravated robbery after shooting a convenience store manager during a robbery on New Year’s Eve in 1975.
Nearly 50 years after Poole’s prediction, a city official and former investigator called Meza, 62, a “serial killer.”
“Here’s a serial killer that justice was not served. It was a travesty of justice,” said Interim Assistant City Manager Bruce Mills, who was the primary investigator on the 1982 case in which Meza was convicted of murdering 8-year-old Kendra Page.
On May 25, Meza was arrested and charged with the 2019 murder of Gloria Lofton, his then neighbor, and the 2023 murder of Jesse Fraga, his roommate and long-time friend.
“He’s a deadly person and has been since adolescence,” Lewis said. She conducted her assessment on Meza while he was serving time for Page’s murder. “The iciest, most blood-curdling interview I had been in.”
The Austin Police Department said it is currently looking into at least eight cold cases Meza could be connected to.
As part of KXAN’s continuing investigation into Meza and his criminal cases, we dug through newspaper archives and state records to discover more information about his life, family and friends.
Meza’s ‘troubled’ history
Meza was born in Travis County on Oct. 14, 1960, to Elvia Ortiz and Raul Meza Sr., according to Texas Department of Health archived vital statistics. An obituary shows Meza’s mother died on Aug. 3, 2020. KXAN was unable to locate his father.
Archived Austin American-Stateman newspapers from 1982 suggest Meza’s biological father was not much of a presence in his life.
His early life was troubled, with Meza introduced to a succession of stepfathers and becoming an “intensely lonely youngster,” Poole wrote, according to the reports.
County and state marriage records show Meza had at least three different stepfathers and three half-siblings before he was 15 years old.
KXAN previously reported that Meza’s life of crime began when he was 15 with the 1975 robbery of an Austin convenience store, however we’ve learned Meza’s truancy and criminal history started years earlier.
According to a 1982 Austin American-Stateman report, Meza began using drugs at the age of 8 and was first arrested in 1973 on shoplifting and burglary charges.
The following year, the report stated, Meza was accused of arson after a fire at Austin Junior High School and was sent to Giddings State School.
While at Giddings, Meza ran away and broke into a local country store, according to records cited in 1982 Statesman newspapers.
Regardless of the truancy, a Giddings State School caseworker wrote a letter to Meza’s mother stating he was working on his problems in a “mature and realistic fashion,” the newspapers cite.
Less than six months after the caseworker’s letter, Meza was released in 1974 and enrolled at Travis High School where he failed every class, according to 1982 Statesman articles.
The following year, on New Year’s Eve in 1975, Meza, accompanied by three others, robbed a convenience store and shot the store manager in the back.
The store manager survived and Meza was arrested and charged with aggravated robbery.
While detained in Travis County Jail, Meza was watched closely after attempting to escape by hiding in a garbage can and for fear that he would attempt to commit suicide, 1982 Statesman newspaper archives state.
Meza was convicted and sentenced to 20 years as an adult at the age of 16. He was released on parole in 1981, less than five years into his 20-year sentence.
“Putting that kid in there with all those hardened criminals was like taking a little cocker spaniel in heat and putting her in with a bunch of German Shepherds,” stated a prison veteran cited in a 1982 Statesman report.
One report stated Meza appeared to be doing well. Meza attended a local barber school and began working as a hairdresser for a brief period of time, according to federal court records.
On Jan. 3, 1982, 8-year-old Page’s body was found in the dumpster at a southeast Austin elementary school. Meza, who had been out on parole for less than one year, was charged with sexual assault and murder.
A psychological look into Meza’s mind
Meza’s former therapist, Vivian Lewis, told KXAN she remembered seeing Meza and initially feeling as if she had made a breakthrough and was going to be able to help him.
“The next time I went out, I realized I had been conned,” Lewis said, recalling what Meza told her in that next interview. “I was dealing with a psychopath. “
“The most impacting thing about Raul was how engaging he could be,” Lewis said.
In 1993, when Meza got released from prison after killing 8-year-old Page, he tried to convince the public he had changed.
“There is nothing that I can do to change the past. I can only tell you that in my heart, I will not willfully bring harm to anyone,” he told reporters 30 years ago.
That contrasts with what Lewis said she observed about his behavior following the murder.
“Willing to explicitly describe his crime against Kendra,” she said. “He seemed to find great joy in hurting this girl.”
“I believe that Raul truly enjoys grooming someone, teaching them that he’s safe, and then horribly harming them,” Lewis said.
Doctor Nancy Zarse, a forensic psychologist, can’t comment on Meza’s case directly, but she provided insight on factors that make people more likely to commit crimes.
“Young age, male gender, past history of violence, antisocial/psychopathy and serious mental illness,” she said, listing some risk factors.
She also said frequent prison time can play a role.
“The fact that somebody is coming in and out of prison indicates there is repeated illegal behavior,” she said. “Often times that behavior tends to accelerate over time and their crimes get more severe.”
Meza’s release and his mother’s influential connections
According to multiple archived newspapers, Meza’s mother, now Elvia Castro, was very active and well-known in the community.
She was the director of on-the-job training for the Women’s Center of Austin and worked on political campaigns for multiple state officials, including then-State Rep. Gonzalo Barrientos and former Travis County Commissioner Richard Moya, a 1982 Statesman newspaper archive stated.
When Meza was eligible for parole in 1981 while serving his sentence for aggravated robbery, newspaper archives stated Barrientos, Moya, as well as others such as former Travis County Sheriff Raymond Frank, all wrote letters of support to the Texas Parole Board in favor of Meza’s release.
In 1982, Moya told the Austin American-Stateman, he wrote the board because Meza’s mother asked him to.
Additionally, the archived newspaper stated Castro personally appealed to Johnny McCollum, who at the time coordinated parole cases for the governor, for her son to be released.
KXAN spoke to Barrientos, who said he didn’t personally know Meza’s mother and explained his office frequently received requests from family members asking for a letter of “good consideration” to be provided to the Texas Parole Board.
Barrientos told KXAN he remembers receiving a phone call from Moya about a woman who was seeking support to have her son released on parole.
Barrientos’ office did provide the parole board a letter of good consideration in 1981, however, Barrientos told KXAN when he found out Meza was eligible for parole again in 1993, he wrote a second letter to the parole board recommending Meza not be released.
Moya and Frank have since passed away.
KXAN’s investigation found this was not the only involvement former Commissioner Moya had with Meza and his family.
According to police records cited in 1982 Statesman archived newspapers, Castro called Moya hours after Page’s body was found on Jan. 3, 1982.
“She said her son was telling her a real weird story and she was real afraid and wanted some advice,” Moya said, according to the 1982 Statesman archived newspaper.
Moya recommended Castro get an attorney and referred her to Austin attorney Roy Minton. Two days later, Meza turned himself into the Austin Police Department with his attorney Rip Collins, an associate of Minton’s, the archived newspaper stated.
Meza was ultimately convicted of murder and sentenced to 30 years in prison.
According to 1993 Del Rio News-Herald archived newspapers, Meza accumulated over 19 years in good time credit and nearly three years’ credit for participating in vocational programs in barbering and auto mechanics.
Meza was released on parole in 1993 after serving less than 12 years.
Personal life during and after parole
Meza told the Del Rio News-Herald in 1993 he became a “born-again Christian” while in prison.
Regardless, Meza’s release met protests from community members statewide.
KXAN interviewed Meza’s mother in 1993, who said the protesters didn’t bother her.
“I’m not asking for any special favors. I’m not asking for anything, but I will not hold my head down in shame anymore,” she said. “My son did his time and its completed and we will go on with our lives the best way we can.”
Shortly after returning to Austin to live with his mother, Meza got married for the first time on Oct. 25, 1993, according to the Texas Department of Health and Human Services.
This marriage didn’t last long, however, and ended less than eight months later on June 9, 1994, according to DSHS.
Shortly after the divorce in 1994, Meza was arrested on a parole violation for violating the conditions of his curfew.
Meza’s friend, Jesse Fraga, the same man Meza confessed to murdering in 2023, is cited in a archived 1994 Austin American-Stateman article asking for a second chance for Meza.
“I see a man who’s trying to help himself. The incarceration (since his arrest) really got his attention,” Fraga told the reporter.
Meza’s parole violation landed him in prison for the next eight years, before being released on parole and transferred to Del Valle Correction halfway house in 2002.
Meza had difficulties obtaining a job so he pursued educational opportunities. He enrolled and graduated from a six week vocational program at Austin Community College in 2006 that focused on trades such as HVAC, carpentry, electrician work and plumbing, according to federal court documents.
While remaining on parole until 2016, Meza married two more times: once in 2009, which ended in an annulment after three months, and again in 2015, which lasted more than two years before their divorce in early 2018, according to DSHS records.
Meza’s mother passed away as Elvia Ortiz Alvarez. One of Meza’s half-brothers wrote on the online obituary stating:
“Mom u were number one in my life I was always so proud u were my mother smart beautiful loving u were wonderwomen to me I took care of all my problems and protected me I love u cant wait to be with u and my sisters I love u so very much rip mommy.”
KXAN spoke to a cousin of Meza’s, who wished to remain anonymous, who told KXAN Meza didn’t attend his mother’s funeral but knew it was very hard on him.
The cousin said he hadn’t seen Meza in months but was shocked when he heard the recent news as his uncle always talked about God and being a “born-again Christian.” The cousin further added his uncle needs to face the consequences for his actions.